Monday, January 17, 2011

Tetsu Ramen in Bunkyo-ku

Since I returned from the States, I have been craving ramen like nobody's business. Not the packets of DIY stuff, of course. The real thing, with the long lines and the short counters and the thick broths with giant chunks of pork. I checked my go-to blog (Ramen Adventures) and searched for a place close to work. It was sort of an unofficial holiday that day. There's nothing on the calendar, but apparently it is common knowledge to everyone but me that nobody actually comes to work on January 3rd. They wait until Tuesday, Jan. 4th. Since I was literally the only person in the building, I decided that it didn't matter if I took an incredibly long lunch and decided to try out Tetsu Ramen, which is infamous for having a really long line.

I bundled up and got on my bike, headed downhill from campus to Shinobazu dori and headed North past Sendagi station. As I rode down the unusually quiet street past one boarded up business after another, there was actually a moment when I feared that a) I might not see it and would pass it up, or b) it might be closed because of the holiday. I was wrong on both accounts. Not only was it the only business open on the entire block, it already had a line that was 10 people deep. And it wasn't even noon yet. There was no way I could have missed it. 
I got in line and tried to figure out the system. A guy walked up after me and went directly to the machine beside the door, got a ticket and got in line behind me. Oops - this is a buy-your-ticket-right-away kind of place. I put my money in and took a wild guess at the buttons. I usually opt for something that is the 2nd or 3rd most expensive on the list, that way I get something good, possibly special, but probably doesn't contain extra portions of pork, etc. This strategy often works for me. On this occasion, however, I got it wrong and ordered cold tsukemen (noodles that you dip in thick broth) instead of hot. Fortunately the guy who comes out to seat people spoke english and fixed my order for me. Inside, there were only about 9 seats. My order was ready only a minute or two after I sat down.

The noodles came in water, which was a little surprising to me, but maybe that is how they keep them hot. The broth was really thick and tasty, had a perfectly cooked egg, huge chunks of pork and some chopped onions. 
Toward the end of the meal, you can ask for a hot stone to lower into your broth to warm it up. (I forgot the japanese word for it, but I just copied the people to my left).  As you can see, the broth is really thick and sticking to the side of the bowl (and to my ribs!)  I will definitely go back to Tetsu ramen the next time I accidentally show up to work on a holiday.

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